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Guest view: Student debt becoming a serious problem

Students who graduate from college with huge debts to pay off aren’t just affected in the bank books. Having a large debt, with deadlines to meet, can affect future educational options and even change the course of careers. Graduate school? Better not until the debt is paid down. Studying law? Same problem.

And universities with limited financial aid resources, which are more numerous in view of the effects of the Great Recession, now are in some cases looking to shape some of their admissions based on the fact that some applicants can pay their full way, or their families can. That skews the entire notion of judging admissions based on academic qualifications.

At UNC-Chapel Hill, 31 percent of graduating students have debt, and it averages $16,000 per student. Consider the bite, the long-term bite, that will take out of a starting teacher’s earnings, for example. And to boot, the grads are entering an anemic job market.

While some schools, notably UNC-CH, have financing plans for the most disadvantaged students that will leave them debt-free, the truth is that middle-class families find it increasingly difficult to pay the bills of a university education. Individual schools need to work on this problem, not taking on a financial burden they can’t bear, of course, but figuring out ways through more work-study, etc., for students to lighten their post-graduation debt. One branch of the UNC system may have an idea that could apply to other schools.

And, legislators need to step up and recognize that heavier debt loads for students are not good for the state, possibly sending more top graduates elsewhere in search of better paying jobs and the chance to retire their debts more quickly.

— from The News & Observer of Raleigh

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